It was two o’clock when my friend called. Our mutual friend no longer wanted to go with him on the Pride cruise.
“He’s chickening out. He can’t deal with the drama.”
“There will be drama?” I asked.
“Hundreds of gay men on a boat for three hours. What do you think?”
“I’ll bring a camera.”
“Bring a shield.”
So off we went to the rainbow-accessorized dinner cruise to be met by a herd of bare-chested, sailor-cap-wearing seamen. We got our beer and found a sweet shady spot on the dance floor. I was delighted by the fresh air and the good vibes and the scenic view.
For a minute there I felt like I was 19 again, reliving the good old days when I used to go dancing at the Odyssey four nights a week, feeling playful and protected and free.
Then, as now, I was blissfully unaware of the complex internal politics amongst my dance floor companions. Who had hooked up with whom was nowhere on my radar. Who had had a falling out with whom – and over what – were like tabloid headlines that I didn’t read. This cruise was similar. There was newness and freshness to the unfamiliar faces.
My friend and I were laughing and dancing and looking to the shore, watching Vancouver from beneath the Second Narrows Bridge, talking about sci-fi movies we’d like to see filmed here.
I could have spent the whole night in that Pollyanna-like state, thinking happy thoughts about the oneness of humanity, but then my friend tapped me on the shoulder and gestured into the crowd, saying, “My ex from the spring is making out with my ex from the fall. I’m going downstairs.”
I peered into the crowd but couldn’t see anything.
“Ah, jeez,” I mumbled.
“The only thing that could make this worse would be if that cute guy in the green shirt joined in,” he scoffed, pointing.
And just like that, within about 15 seconds, it happened.
It had been sort of inevitable that something awkward would transpire. It was set up, even in the invite. But somehow I’d convinced myself that there need not be drama.
The small town analogy so often invoked when speaking about queer communities is an appropriate one. Most of us have to confront that everyone knows everyone else’s business, and out of courtesy and necessity, pretends not to.
Part of why I’d gone on the cruise was to visit a town slightly different from the one I’m used to.
I remember when a gathering of gay men and good tunes meant dancing for the sake of dancing. This year, it meant following my friend to the buffet table for roast beef.